Students and staff from the International Community at Avans now have their own space in OpenX at Avans on Hogeschoollaan in Breda. It’s somewhere they can meet, both formally and informally. The opening party was held on last Thursday afternoon, with free drinks and music.
Holding an almost empty glass of white wine, Lisa Schiffino looks around her with satisfaction. Some fellow students are chatting, there’s disco music playing and the bar is buzzing with Avans students and staff ordering their free drinks. It was busy from the word go on Thursday afternoon at the opening of the new space for the International Community in OpenX. ”I like it here! I think I’ll definitely come here more often”, says one student of International Business.
One student from Italy is very pleased with this specially designed location for international students like her. Because although she hasn’t been a student at Avans for very long, she’d noticed that a place like this was missing. ”Sometimes it can be lonely as a foreign student here, among all the Dutch people. They mainly hang around with each other”, she says. ”Here I can meet with other international students to study or just hang out and chat. It’s such a good thing this is here now.”
Feeling welcome, but not always included
This is exactly why the space in OpenX for internationals has been created, says Joost van Hilst. He is a project leader for the Avans International Community and is partly responsible for the creation of this location in Breda. ”Our own research was telling us that international students feel welcome at Avans, but not always included. And there was no physical space for them to meet at Avans. Things were a bit fragmented. This space will change that”, he says, just before making his welcome speech to all the students.
The new location on the second floor of OpenX has three functions. First, it’s an informal meeting space. Secondly, it’s a formal teaching location, with spaces to work on cross-school projects in groups. And finally, Student Support has its own base here, so that they can jump straight in to help members of the community with all kinds of questions. ”It’s for international students, and also for students and staff with links to the international community’, says Van Hilst, who is very happy with how the place looks. ‘To see this a reality, after all that hard work from different people, is very cool.”
More than two hundred students and staff signed up for the drinks party, and most of them showed up. One guest was student Eugene Chivurayise from Zimbabwe, who is studying Industrial Engineering & Management in Breda. He thinks it’s good that Avans has created this space, because in his experience, other educational institutions don’t do so much for international students. ”That didn’t give me such a good feeling. People don’t always appreciate how difficult it can be for internationals, away from home at a young age without any family and for at least three months at a time. It can be very lonely. Having your own place where you can come together to talk about your experiences and struggles with other international students is important”, says this full-time student, who is happy that Dutch students are welcome here too.
Eugene thinks he’s going to use this place a lot. He likes taking photographs in his spare time, but he never had a place to do his editing work in peace. The new space seems perfect to him. ”Here I can be creative and catch up with other people at the same time”, he says, with a bottle of beer in his hand.
The space for the International Community is located on the second floor of the new OpenX building on Hogeschoollaan.